NuvaRing Bellwether Trial Scheduled for May 2013 in Federal MDL
The first federal lawsuit over NuvaRing has been scheduled for trial to begin in May 2013, serving as a test case, or “bellwether,” for hundreds of complaints that allege side effects of the birth control ring caused women to suffer serious blood clot injuries.
In an order (PDF) issued on August 23, U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel announced that a lawsuit filed by Marianne Prather will serve as the first bellwether trial in the consolidated federal NuvaRing MDL (multidistrict litigation), which currently includes about 800 cases.
All federal complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country against the makers of NuvaRing have been consolidated in the federal court system before Judge Sippel for pretrial proceedings. The cases are centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Prather filed her complaint (PDF) in the Eastern District of Missouri in April 2008, alleging that she suffered a significant pulmonary embolism from NuvaRing at age 33, which involves a blood clot that breaks free and travels to the lungs.
The order indicates that Prather’s case will be the first trial in the federal MDL, beginning on May 6, 2013. However, it does not appear that it will be the first NuvaRing trial in the United States, as a New Jersey state court case is expected to begin in February 2013. There are about 125 NuvaRing cases consolidated in Bergen County, New Jersey before Judge Brian Martinotti.
NuvaRing Trials Likely To Involve Common Facts and Evidence
All of the complaints over NuvaRing filed in courts throughout the country involve similar allegations, that Merck and their Organon subsidiary failed to adequately research the side effects of NuvaRing or warn that the birth control ring may cause women to face an increased risk of blood clots when compared to certain oral birth control pills.
Plaintiffs allege that they have suffered a variety of blood clot injuries from NuvaRing, including deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack and stroke.
In the federal MDL, Judge Sipple has indicated that Defendants and Plaintiffs will each select additional cases to serve as the second and third case to proceed to trial after the Prather lawsuit.
These early test cases, often referred to as bellwether trials, are aimed at helping both parties determine how juries will respond to arguments, expert testimony and evidence that is likely to be presented throughout the litigation in one case after another.
The approaching trial dates and any eventual verdicts returned in the bellwether trials could help facilitate potential NuvaRing settlement agreements in other cases.
Earlier this year, Judge Sippel asked the parties to submit proposed plans for alternative dispute resolution to discuss potential settlements or resolutions for the NuvaRing litigation as the first trial dates approach.
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